CHARLIE HALES, taking over as Portland mayor in a month, has been operating like something of a specter over the past few weeks—quietly, respectfully haunting city hall during the last days of his predecessor, Sam Adams.
His transition staff is camped out at a safe distance in the Portland Building. And with little fanfare, Hales has been visiting city hall and hitting up offices for policy meetings and sitdowns.
During a city hall briefing last week on Adams' plan to rehab Veterans Memorial Coliseum, for instance, it was revealed that financial planners had walked Hales through much of what they were presenting to the council. On Tuesday, December 4, Hales was in the city council chambers with Commissioner-elect Steve Novick to talk about the city's state and federal legislative wish lists—and then sit for his official portrait.
His presence in the city's current government, however, is about to become all the more corporeal. And that manifestation may be operating more smoothly than I previously asserted ["Rocky Start for Hales' Transition," Hall Monitor, Nov 14]. What changed?
On Monday, December 3, Hales announced the first major hire of his administration, naming former Oregon State Representative Gail Shibley as his chief of staff. (Or, as Hales put it during an interview, "my emissary and alternate.") It's a big job, one that sets the tone for the rest of the mayor's tenure, and Hales appears to have chosen wisely.
Shibley comes to city hall with an impressively expansive résumé that leaves her well positioned to help Hales lead on priorities like mental health and police reform, paying for "basic services" in transportation without sacrificing innovation, and maintaining good relations with federal, state, and regional governments.
She was the first open lesbian elected to the Oregon House, serving from 1991-1996. While commuting to Salem, she kept a high-profile job under then-City Commissioner Earl Blumenauer in the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). More recently, she's spent the past nine years working for the Oregon Health Authority and also logged time with the Federal Highway Administration and the US Department of Labor.
When touting Shibley's experience, Hales specifically mentioned the city's legal settlement with the feds on police reform—which includes the daunting task of working with health care groups to set up a new drop-off clinic by the middle of next year.
"There's a lot of work to do there," Hales told me. "Her understanding of public health will equip her to be very credible."
Hales' enthusiasm has been matched, so far, by advocates who don't always shower city hall with love and affection. The Mental Health Association of Portland called it an "excellent first move." And Jonathan Maus of bikeportland.org said the pick was "reason for optimism among transportation reformers."
Shibley's first job, Hales says, will be helping him fill out the rest of his staff. Sources say she'll almost immediately join the current council's chiefs in their regular meetings.
And while Shibley's hire gives Hales something to crow about, it's also something of a coup for superstar political consultant Mark Wiener and his firm, Winning Mark. Wiener was brought on to help guide Hales' mayoral campaign, and then his wife, Aisling Coghlan, was brought on to run Hales' transition office.
So don't forget to give them a gold star, too.